2022 U.S. Open: Jon Rahm survives near-O.B. drive, stolen golf ball to open defense in 69

2022 U.S. Open: Jon Rahm survives near-O.B. drive, stolen golf ball to open defense in 69
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BROOKLINE, Mass. – Another tee ball sailing left, Jon Rahm returned to his bag, prepared to play his fifth shot and reach instead for the 3-wood.

Rahm’s U.S. Open title defense appeared to be unraveling on the 17th tee, but more than 200 yards ahead he saw a welcome sight: a marshal, signaling the safe sign.

His first tee shot had been found – barely – only a few feet away from the junk.

Full-field scores from U.S. Open

“I didn’t really realize how close I came,” he said. “I fully know how lucky I got on that hole.” With a clear look at the green, Rahm wedged to 10 feet and narrowly missed the birdie try.

On 18, Rahm encountered even more stress, another tee shot going way left. It could have wound up in the tall grass but instead settled under the TV tower. Rahm would have been entitled to a free drop anyway, but as he approached the area, he spotted two teenagers pick up the ball and go sprinting in the other direction, their smiles as wide as the fairway.

“I’m pretty sure I know who it was,” he said, chuckling. “I am 100% sure I saw the two kids that stole it.”

Once an official helped him with the drop, Rahm took advantage with only 135 yards to the flag. From the trampled-down rough, he was able to put enough spin on the shot to keep the ball pin-high, and then he rolled in the 20-footer for birdie to finish with a 1-under 69.

Rahm twice pumped his fist, muttered “Vamos” under his breath and then sheepishly walked off the green, covering his eyes with his hand. On this day, he knew he could have been at least a few shots worse.

“To hit two wayward drives in the last two holes and somehow end up with two birdies putts, making the last one,” he said, relieved. “Making a putt to break par in the first round of the U.S. Open, it’s quite a big deal.”

Rahm’s start left him only two shots off the early pace at The Country Club.

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